2019 New York City Marathon

Why Your NYC Marathon Pick Will And Won't Win

Why Your NYC Marathon Pick Will And Won't Win

A look at the favorites in NYC and why they should (and shouldn’t) like their chances to win on Sunday.

Oct 30, 2019 by Lincoln Shryack
Why Your NYC Marathon Pick Will And Won't Win
The 2019 NYC Marathon will not feature Eliud Kipchoge or Brigid Kosgei. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty to get excited about surrounding the final major marathon of 2019.

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The 2019 NYC Marathon will not feature Eliud Kipchoge or Brigid Kosgei. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty to get excited about surrounding the final major marathon of 2019.

Here’s a look at each of the favorites in the men’s and women’s races and why they should (and shouldn’t) like their chances to win on Sunday.


Lelisa Desisa (ETH) 2:04:45 PB

NYC History: 2nd 2014, 3rd 2015, DNF 2016, 3rd 2017, 1st 2018

Will Win - He’s The Defending Champion

Starting with his thrilling victory in New York last year, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa’s last three marathons have all been spectacular. After running 2:05:59 last November-- the second-fastest time ever in NYC-- the 29-year-old subsequently finished a close second in Boston in April before winning the world title in Doha on Oct. 6. He’s on fire.

Won’t Win - He’s Trying To Win Two Majors Within A Month

Desisa is taking on the gargantuan task of the World Championships-NYC double, which will require him to run two major marathons in the span of 28 days. While he’s been running very well of late, he’s not going to be at full strength on Sunday. A victory is not impossible for someone of his caliber, but 2017 champion Geoffrey Kamworor has to be licking his chops as he prepares to face a weakened Desisa.

Geoffrey Kamworor (KEN) 2:06:12 PB

NYC History:  2nd 2015, 1st 2017, 3rd 2018

Will Win - Just Set The Half Marathon World Record

For all his success in cross country (two world titles), the track (a 10,000m silver medal) and the roads (three half marathon world titles and the 58:01 world record), it seems like Geoffrey Kamworor’s best in the marathon is still to come. He’s only raced one marathon since his 2017 New York win-- last year’s race, where he placed third in 2:06:26-- so much of that is due to his selective race schedule. But his 58:01 half marathon world record in September showed a man whose marathon potential is bursting at the seams. He very well may dominate on Sunday.

Won’t Win - The Two Men Who Beat Him Last Year Are Back

Given his past victory and the fact that Desisa is not entirely fresh, Kamworor should be considered the favorite in 2019. But that’s exactly how he entered last year’s race before Desisa dropped him in the final mile and another Ethiopian, Shura Kitata, caught and passed him late as well. Both Ethiopians have had strong results in 2019 and present a formidable challenge to Kamworor.

Shura Kitata (ETH) 2:04:49 PB

NYC History:  2nd 2018

Will Win - He Finished Two Seconds Behind Desisa Last Year

In just his second major marathon ever last year in New York, Shura Kitata gave the established star Desisa everything he could handle en route to a two-second loss in 2:06:01. That performance followed a runner-up finish in the 2018 London Marathon where the Ethiopian tested marathon great Eliud Kipchoge. The 23-year-old is primed for a breakthrough.

Won’t Win - He’s Never Won A Major

First-time major winners pop up all the time-- Kamworor in 2017, Lawrence Cherono in Boston this year-- so it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Kitata win on Sunday. But the psychological edge that someone like Desisa-- who has won four majors-- has over the comparatively inexperienced Kitata is significant.

Tamirat Tola (ETH) 2:04:06 PB

NYC History: 4th 2018

Why He’ll Win - Fastest PB In The Field

Say what you will about Dubai, but Tamirat Tola has twice run 2:04-low there and the Ethiopian owns the fastest personal best in Sunday’s New York field. He also finished just six seconds behind Mo Farah in a half marathon in September.

Won’t Win - He Rarely Contends In Majors

Tola has finished on a major marathon podium just once in his career-- a runner-up finish at the 2017 World Championships in London. As top marathons go, worlds is typically the weakest link, so Tola’s major record indicates that he's a long shot to win New York.


Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:17:01

NYC History: 3rd 2010, 3rd 2011, 1st 2014, 1st 2015, 1st 2016, 2nd 2017, 1st 2018

Will Win - Mary Keitany Owns New York

There is no queen of New York City, but if there was it would be 37-year-old Mary Keitany. The Kenyan has won NYC four of the last five years, including last year’s stunning 2:22:48 win that featured a 66:58 second half. Even on an off day, Keitany is a safe bet to finish on the podium, but her sterling record in this race shows she rarely has an off day.

Won’t Win - Her Age Has To Eventually Catch Up To Her

Keitany has won six majors since turning 30 in 2012, a remarkable record in an event as punishing as the marathon. Despite showing no signs yet of slowing down, Keitany will relinquish her hold over New York sooner rather than later. The oldest women’s major winner ever is 38, the same age Keitany will turn in January.

Ruti Aga (ETH) 2:18:34 PB

NYC History: First Appearance

Will Win - She’s Podiumed In Four Of Her Last Five Majors

While Ruti Aga put together a less-than-inspiring performance at the 2019 World Championships in Doha-- she dropped out before 15k-- her record in four previous majors has been strong. The 25-year-old won March’s Tokyo Marathon after three consecutive runner-up finishes across Berlin and Tokyo before that.

Won’t Win - Mary Keitany

With all due respect to Tokyo, Aga did not face a woman of Mary Keitany’s caliber in March. A four-time champion and the third-fastest woman ever will be an entirely different challenge for the Ethiopian.

Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) Debut*

*DNF at 2019 London

NYC History: First Appearance

Will Win - She’s The Half Marathon World Record Holder

Jepkosgei ran the two-fastest (regulation) half marathons in history in 2017-- 64:52 followed by 64:51-- which has generated plenty of excitement about her potential in the full. The 25-year-old dropped out of London in April but her speed could combat her inexperience in the distance.

Won’t Win - History Is Not On Her Side

Not since Tegla Loroupe in 1994 has a woman won New York in her first try at the marathon distance. Beating Keitany is hard enough, but doing so having never even raced 26.2 miles is almost impossible.